afflicted areas of the Sahel and its neighboring regions. A vast and vigorous grain-gathering enterprise, for instance, would ensure that once again the grass cover is kept in place and that overgrazing is controlled once more.
Such a possibility is not inconceivable. Wild cereals might be made into an everyday food source, a famine reserve, and perhaps even a specialty export crop. This last may seem unlikely, but it should at least be considered. Today, the overall situation is different from that of a century ago. Railroads and airfreight mean that grains can now be shipped from the Sahara with much greater ease than on the backs of camels. Moreover, consumers in affluent nations are increasingly interested in buying and trying "exotic" cuisines. And many people of goodwill are highly motivated and eager to help avoid the horrendous tragedies of Sahelian drought and famine they have witnessed on their television screens in recent decades.
A similar concept is being attempted as a way to combat the destruction of tropical rainforests. In the last few years, for instance, an international trade in special tropical-forest products has begun. The object is to foster an economy based on resources of the rainforest itself. If successful, it will generate powerful local disincentives for destroying the natural environment.
In the case of the rainforest, the products are such things as wild rubber, fruits, nuts, and vegetable-ivory buttons. In the case of Africa's desertifying areas, the product might be kreb.
Kreb is perhaps the most famous food of the Sahara. A complex of a dozen or more different wild grains, it was harvested from natural meadows. Its composition varied from place to place and probably from year to year, depending on the mix of grasses that grew.
These days, given some clever marketing, "kreb from the Sahara" might sell at premium prices in Europe, North Africa, and North America, for example. It would be seen as a gourmet food that provides income to nomads and protects the earth's most fragile lands from further destruction by keeping a cover of wild native grasses on them.
Although this idea is highly speculative, subject to many limitations and uncertainties, it is not beyond reason. Mixed-grain products are not uncommon in Western supermarkets these days. For instance, in the United States a popular breakfast cereal is a grain mixture that people boil in water like rice. (It is made from conventional grains but goes by the trade name "Kashi," another word for kreb.6) And some expensive breads are made from as many as 11 different grains.
The pamphlet in each box explains: "Kashi, the breakfast pilaf, is a specially formulated pure blend of whole oats, long grain brown rice, whole rye, triticale, hard red winter wheat, raw buckwheat, slightly hulled barley, and mechanically dehulled sesame seeds; 100 percent quality whole grains that are not cut, cracked, rolled or flaked nor creamy or mushy when cooked."